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May 06, 1988 - Image 103

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-05-06

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ew York (JTA) —
When Menachem Ro-
sensaft appeared at a
Mideast peace rally in New
York on April 24, he was the
only scheduled speaker who
was also a member of the
Conference of Presidents of
Major American Jewish
And when Israeli Prime
Minister Yitzhak Shamir ad-
dressed the Conference of
Presidents more than a
month ago, and warned
American Jewish leaders
about speaking out in
criticism of Israel, Rosensaft
was one of only two of those
leaders to stand up and
challenge the premier.
"A lot of people came up to
me afterwards saying 'We
agree with you.' I said thank
you, but told them I'd rather
they had told Shamir that,"
said Rosensaft.
As the newly-inducted
president of the Labor Zionist
Alliance, Rosensaft said he
refuses to believe that in shar-
ing the ideology of Israel's
Labor Party, the LZA
represents the minority opi-
nion in the American Jewish
Rosensaft assumes the
stewardship of the LZA — suc-
ceeding Ezra Spicehandler —
after having founded and
served as chairman of the In-
ternational Network of
Children of Jewish Holocaust
Survivors. He also chairs the
executive committee of the
World Jewish Congress-
American Section and the col-
lections committee of the New
York Holocaust Memorial
Sitting in his office a day
after his induction at the
LZA's triennial convention,
and a week before his fortieth
birthday, the New York
lawyer explained his views on
the Zionist movement in
general, and the Labor move-
ment in particular.
But whatever the topic,
whether speaking about the
vision of Israel's founding
Laborites or what he called
the "inaction" of his own
organization over the past 10
years, he returned again and
again to the subject of "speak-
ing out!'
"During the past several
decades, (Israel) had the
tendency to view the Zionist
organizations as merely a
support body for Israel. Of
course, that's part of their
role, but not their entire role,"
he said.

The "entire role," he added,
is more akin to a partnership.
"lb view the American Jew-
ish community as nothing
but a philanthropic arm or
political rubber stamp . . .
is both insulting and
"We support Israel fully
and identify with her totally.
But that does not mean we
have to agree with every
single decision or policy set by
the government or a par-
ticular minister. Voicing our
concerns does not indicate

Shamir, he argued, "doesn't
purport to be apolitical on his
trips to the U.S?' And if the
Conference of Presidents
nevertheless reaches a con-
sensus to support the prime
minister as the leader of
Israel, "then it is the respon-
sibility of those in the leader-
ship of the liberal organiza-
tions to make our views heard
The organizations Rosen-
saft referred to are members
of a Labor-led coalition within
the World Zionist Organiza-
tion, including Americans for
a Progressive Israel; ARZA,
the Reform Zionist Move-
ment; Mercaz, the Conser-
vative Zionist body; and
Rosensaft believes that
more American Jews support
Labor's views than those of
Israel's right wing. They want
to see a negotiated settlement
with the Palestinians and an
end to the Israel Defense
Force being used as what
Rosensaft unapologetically
calls "an army of occupation!'
"That's not meant as a
criticism of the IDF," he ex-
plained, having faced the op-
position of delegates to the
use of the term "occupation"
in a conference resolution. "It
merely states the fact that
the armed forces of Israel
should not have as its princi-
ple role the administration of
the West Bank and Gaza!'
But Rosensaft acknowledg-
ed that there is a gap between
the feelings of the American
Jewish community and the
low numbers actually joining
his and other Zionist
organizations. Attracting a
young membership is the pro-
blem, he said, noting that the
LZA's membership "ranges
from the 50s up."
Rosensaft blames the
Zionist movement for the in-
ertia, for relegating younger
generations "to being con-
tributors to UJA or other
fund-raising organizations!'

Jewish Telegraphic Agency


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